Learning outside the lines: Home schooling in Kansas

Home-schoolers say socialization not a problem

Children participating in a home school cooperative play a game of tag during physical education outside Community Bible Church, 906 N. 1464 Road. The cooperative is part of the home school group TEACH, or Teaching Effective Academics in Christian Homes.

Children participating in a home school cooperative play a game of tag during physical education outside Community Bible Church, 906 N. 1464 Road. The cooperative is part of the home school group TEACH, or Teaching Effective Academics in Christian Homes.

May 13, 2007

Editor's note: This article is part of a series examining the rise of home schooling in Kansas. <a href="/news/education/home_schooling/learning_outside_the_lines/">See the entire series</a>.


Learning Outside the Lines: Home-schooled students hone their social skills without the structure of traditional school events

Imagine your education without recess, PE class, school plays, or even school dances. Tonight, in part three of our series: Learning Outside the Lines, we take a look at how home-schooled students hone their social skills - without the structure of traditional school events. Enlarge video

See more in our home schooling series
Learning outside the lines

Martha Bachert is sick of the question: How do your children meet anyone if they're home-schooled?

"We've all heard it a lot," she says. "We call it the 's-word': socialization. Our lives are so full of it (socializing) that we have to say no. We have too much of that."

Many home schooling families say a lack of socialization is the biggest myth they face when talking about their practice. There are plenty of options for their children to meet peers, they contend, and their children can avoid bullying and peer pressure by not being at a brick-and-mortar school.

But public school advocates and some psychologists say interactions that take place in schools - even the negative kind - can help children learn to negotiate a diverse and sometimes unfriendly world.

Bad schools?

Charlotte Ostermann, a home school mother who lives near McLouth, says her five children have missed out on plenty by not being in public schools.

"They missed being bullied," she says. "They missed being told they can't learn beyond what they're supposed to learn for a particular year. They missed out on being told they're stupid or, especially, gifted. They missed out on being in a box none of them would fit in."

But Adela Solis, president of the Lawrence Education Association, the local teacher union, says such concerns about public schools are "a little blown out of proportion."

"This is not a sheltered world," she says. "We want to produce children who are productive members of society. It's not necessarily fair at some point to think the world doesn't exist in the form it's in. It's a better service to prepare children to be better thinkers for themselves."

Learning from others

Bridget Biggs, an assistant professor in Kansas University's clinical child psychology program, says research confirms that children who are bullied, rejected and continuously victimized can develop a negative self-concept, anxiety and even depression. There's also evidence to suggest that peers can influence behaviors related to sexuality, drug and alcohol use, and delinquency.

However, being around a lot of people their own age benefits children immensely, Biggs says. They get support and validation for who they are. And as they grow into adolescence, they learn the intimacy of close friendships.

Biggs says cognitive development theorists such as the late Jean Piaget would argue that parent-child and teacher-child relationships don't provide the same benefits because the child is in a subordinate position. But peers are equals and challenge one another to think more critically. A classic example, Biggs says, is negotiating rules on the playground.

"If they're playing foursquare, is on the line in or is it out? Having to negotiate that takes some sophisticated thinking," she says. "And it takes a lot more sophistication to argue with another child than an adult who may say, 'I said this is the way the rule's going to be.' Or they might just turn to the adult and say, 'Can you settle this dispute for me?'"

She points out that these valuable interactions often happen in the school setting, but to her knowledge there have been no studies that compare the social lives of home school children to those of public or private school children. In the clinical setting, Biggs says she's seen wide variability in what other venues home school families seek out for socialization.

"Some parents didn't really think about it at all," she says. "Other parents were really well-hooked up into home schooling networks, and their kids had friends from the neighborhood, friends from the home school network and really ended up having a sense of belonging."

Home school gatherings

Two organizations - one catering to Christian home-schoolers, the other catering to secular home-schoolers - exist in Lawrence.

The Lawrence Area Homeschool Network has social gatherings for members every other Tuesday afternoon.

Teaching Effective Academics in Christian Homes offers a variety of social and academic programs for its members. One of those is the Encore music program, which includes bands, choirs and an orchestra.

Lana Groundwater's 11-year-old son, Trevor, plays percussion in the band. She likes the option for him to play music with others, but she's not concerned about him having enough friends.

"We've got a lot going on," Groundwater says. "It's important, but we're around a lot of people. There are so many things we do."

For 14-year-old Hannah Davidson, a clarinet player, Encore provides a chance to be around other home-schoolers. She also plays in an honor group in Kansas City, but those are mainly public school students.

"People that go to public school don't always relate to home-schoolers," Hannah says.

Pros, cons

Socialization has been a major concern for Tracie and Sam Drake of Tonganoxie, who home-school their three boys, ages 11, 7 and 5.

"We'd really like them to be around more kids," Tracie Drake says.

She is constantly in the car, driving among several home school groups in which the boys are involved.

"Instead of bar-hopping," she says, "I home school hop."

In addition, the children participate in baseball, Boy Scouts and a science and math club in Kansas City, Mo.

The oldest son, James, says there would be advantages to being in school, such as seeing friends on a more regular basis.

"I'd be around more people," he says. "I have to wait around all winter for baseball season to start to see people."

But Drake says there also are social advantages to home schooling. For instance, she says, the boys haven't developed a macho attitude like other kids their age, and they don't have to worry about peer pressure.

"I don't wear name-brand shoes," James says. "And I don't care."


bmwjhawk 10 years, 7 months ago

Is there some sort of bully outreach program? I really feel bad for these kids. What happens when their first boss or co-worker makes fun of their ugly, non-name-brand shoes? It's better to get the tears out of the way in elementary school than in a boardroom.

JayViking 10 years, 7 months ago

BMW, don't you remember how everyone stopped being mean after you got out of school?

SettingTheRecordStraight 10 years, 7 months ago

Homeschooling is an excellent, laudable alternative for those disgusted by government schools.

Jeteras 10 years, 7 months ago

Why home school? It is sooooo much fun to see the high school prom queen and king at the 10 year reunion 300+ pounds driving a trash truck for a living and the school geek working for microsoft dating a supermodel and driving a Ferrari. Where else will you get this satisfaction later in your life

Centrist 10 years, 7 months ago

Mach ... a great alternative for you would be the Lawrence Virtual School. No religion involved. It's like homeschooling, only you use the K-12 program, which is administered by the Lawrence school district. My son has been with this program for 3 years now and is blossoming tremendously, without the B.S. of the brick & mortar school. I really think this would be good for your situation.

Centrist 10 years, 7 months ago

What is 'socialization' any more, anyway? It's not like it used to be.

What - so they can learn that the only thing that matters in life is to become the next American Idol, or local druglord / pimp / ho / rapper?

No ... bugger that.

'Socialization' these days is not so great, people ..

My son has several friends with which he plays with, with close adult spervision (to a point). It's safe, and he still has "socilaization' - without the added pressure of things he shouldn't have to think about at 8 years of age ...

mollysoph 10 years, 7 months ago

Very curious; what school does your child attend, Machiavelli?

webmocker 10 years, 7 months ago

Machiavelli_mania says:

"I can't handle the Christian aspect to home schooling. Are there any of you home schoolers out there that don't feel the irrational need to put some god into education?"

From the article: "Two organizations - one catering to Christian home-schoolers, the other catering to secular home-schoolers - exist in Lawrence."

roger_o_thornhill 10 years, 7 months ago

Yes, lets all abandon the public school system. Maybe you homeschoolers would like a tax break since YOUR kids aren't in the public schools. Then the private school students' parents can ask for the same. Then the stupid "voucher" program can be fully implemented. Then folks like out in the JO can demand that they have the right to raise their own taxes to make their own schools better for their own kids. Then we can all lament the degradation of the public school system. So much for "all men are created equal"--as soon as you come out of the chute it is a different story.

In my experience, home schooled kids act as superior as their parents. This is NOT a good thing.

"What - so they can learn that the only thing that matters in life is to become the next American Idol, or local druglord / pimp / ho / rapper?"--sounds more like TV than the public schools. Kill Your Television if you can't control it.

And Mach...if you are the one homeschooling, you can leave the Christianity out of it. If someone else is teaching your kids, even at their home, it is no longer homeschooling. It is someone operating a school from their home.

And Jeteras, that sounds awfully mean spirited.

Centrist 10 years, 7 months ago

roger apparently thinks there's no pop culture influences in the pristine public school system either

makeitstop 10 years, 7 months ago

Well, with Machiavelli_mania's reading comprehension, maybe it's a good thing his kids are still in public school. Don't worry Mach, your kids can learn to "irrationally" hate Christianity in public school too, where there are plenty of lessons in ignorance and intolerance to be learned.

Centrist 10 years, 7 months ago

makeitstop ... you have a point, but I think mach is just sick of hearing about how God needs to be 'restored' in the schools. That should be a focus in a Christian school, although some mention of religious theory vs. secular theory in public school can't be bad!

I am not religious, but I totally accept that others are. We need to be tolerant of all viewpoints in life, even if we think they are wrong.

justthefacts 10 years, 7 months ago

My personal experiences with home-schoolers is limited, but I can say that those who USED to do homeschooling were the wierdest of the weird, but that more and more "normal" parents are opting for it. For a lot of reasons - disatisfaction with how/what their children are being taught primary among them.

My son was tested and declared a gift child in first grade. But the Lawrence school system's idea of providing gifted classes was one hour a week, doing fun stuff (in grade school). Later on, his grade cards of B's and C's did not alarm them, "he's just bored" was their answer to my concern. It was not until he got into college (which he did not finish) that someone finally tested him for a learning disability!

I have one friend whose now high-school aged daughter was not ALLOWED to read in her Lawrence Kindergarten classes (in front of the other children) because it would make the others feel badly. The teachers had to SNEAK her books to take home!! And she was DISCOURAGED by teachers from doing extra math homework!

On the flip side, I have one couple friend who have home schooled their oldest 3 offspring. Their 16 year old daughter went to KU, as a junior, and is about to graduate with her BA. The rest of their kids are not too far behind. And aside from being incredibly self-assured for young people their ages, and thus "odd" in that sense, they aren't total weirdo's without social skills.

So you tell me - which children are better off? The ones who are used to prop up a system that is not serving their best interests? Or the children whose parents recognize their child only gets one shot at getting a good education while young?

If the public school system wants to keep operating, it had better scrap the "no child left behind" concept and start really teaching each child what they are able to learn, as soon as they can learn it! The "one size fits all" model is dying. Whether home schooling kills it, or something else, a lot of parents are FINALLY realizing that eduating their child should not simply be turned over to (often very well-meaning) strangers!

roger_o_thornhill 10 years, 7 months ago

Yes, I went too far, but...not everyone can afford private schools and/or home schooling and it isn't the child's fault. Why should they be punished for the "sins" of their parents? Home schooling, private schools, and so-called "vouchers" are antithetical to the idea of education for ALL. Seems like more commodification of knowledge, just like the entire post-secondary educational system is now.

Sorry for my "flaming" (I think that is what it is called). I get too riled up sometimes.

However..."makeitstop": Is there such a thing as "rational" hatred of Christianity? For that matter, is there such a thing as "rational" hatred at all? Hate seems to be irrational in and of itself.

Centrist 10 years, 7 months ago

Che ... wow! I had no idea how prevalent (or predatory) the situation was.

Jillian Andrews 10 years, 7 months ago

"The NEA won't allow someone to pray but they encourage teachers to prey."

That has got to be one of the most moronic statements I've read in a long, long time. First, it's a little thing called SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE that says praying belongs in YOUR OWN home and church, not in EVERYONE'S school. And NO organization is encouragaing teachers to prey on children. Get a grip!

Centrist 10 years, 7 months ago

stops4armadillos ... yeah, it almost sounded "O-Reilly-esque"

latinlab 10 years, 7 months ago

Just in from the BBC: An Australian teenager has won record damages after a court found that his school "grossly failed" in its duty to protect him from a school bully. He was awarded A$213,000 (US$177,000, £90,000) plus a lifetime income that is likely to take his payout beyond $1m. She said Benjamin began to suffer headaches and nightmares, cried all the time and developed a stutter, adding that on one occasion the bully had tried to strangle her son. When she reported the abuse to the police and the school authorities, Mrs Cox said she was told by a department of education officer that "bullying builds character". http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6653969.stm

latinlab 10 years, 7 months ago

So stay at home or bully the bully ey?

makeitstop 10 years, 7 months ago

Most Christians don't simply want "God" taught in public schools. They're not asking, nor do they want, teachers teaching the actual faith. They do, however, want to be afforded the same tolerance as any other religion.

We teach about several religions in public school under the guise of being "open-minded", yet everyone lights up their torch and hits the streets when we teach about Christianity. Notice I said "about Christianity", not trying to teach people to BE Christians. But simply teaching them the basics in a strictly historical sense. Our society (the very society that prides it self on being open minded enough to learn about all things) even looks down on simply pursuing knowledge of the Christian faith.

Society also readily attacks the idea of following the Christian faith as being ignorant, yet hails following many eastern faiths as being enlightened. Where's the open mindedness when you need it? Or maybe it's just about being open minded about the things you agree with...

not_dolph 10 years, 7 months ago

Maybe she shouldn't be so "sick" of the question about socialization and continue to answer it until people don't ask it anymore. Anytime you are on the extreme end of an issue, people are going to have questions or presuppositions. Answer the questions with a smile, Martha, and maybe people will be more receptive to your ways.

jonas 10 years, 7 months ago

Instead of relying upon Che-Gueverra and the Newsmax article that he references (without, I may add, any citation of source) here is the full report commissioned by Dept. of Ed. on teacher-student abuse prevalence. One thing that should be noted is that the statistics were compounded on questionaire respondants, of which only 46% of all solicitations were responded to, and not on documented cases.


jonas 10 years, 7 months ago

And, of course, if this is supposed to be indicative that home-schooling is going to save children from being abused, here are a few more compiled statistics for you.

The National Resource Council estimates the percent of the U.S. population which has been sexually abused to range from a low of 20-24 percent to a high of 54-62 percent of the population; the higher estimate includes sexualized exposure without touching, such as masturbating in front of the child.1 The largest retrospective study on the prevalence of child sexual abuse found 27 percent of women and 16 percent of men reported abuse.4

Children are most vulnerable between ages eight-12.8 The average age for first abuse is 9.9 years for boys and 9.6 years for girls.6 Victimization occurs before age eight in over 20 percent of the cases. Another study found 24 percent of female child sexual abuse survivors were first abused at age five or younger.9

Most children are abused by someone they know and trust, although boys are more likely than girls to be abused outside of the family.2,5 A study in three states found 96 percent of reported rape survivors under age 12 knew the attacker. Four percent of the offenders were strangers, 20 percent were fathers 16 percent were relatives and 50 percent were acquaintances or friends. Among women 18 or older, 12 percent were raped by a family member, 33 percent by a stranger and 55 percent by an acquaintance.24


To me, it seems like homeschooling children may actually take them from a relatively safe environment and put them squarely in the hands of the people MOST likely to sexually abuse them: their own parents, relatives, and close aquaintances.

Pleasant dreams, all.

Navin_R_Johnson 10 years, 7 months ago

why in the name of all things secular would you use "socialization" as an argument against homeschooling when the social skills they'll acquire at State-sponsored schools can be gotten from SpongeBob?

why do you demand of others that they accept the same stupendously low social standard you want for your kids? (assuming you even have any)

that ain't freedom, its coercion, based on envy.

nazi germany despised and outlawed homeschooling too, the social values of the family, it seems, were contrary to that of State!

HomeschoolTongimom 10 years, 7 months ago

I have been reading what people have been saying here. I am amazed how many people think kids are being left in the dark socially or missing out on the school experience. Not to mention that they in some way feel superior to non-homeschooled kids.

I do not raise my children like that. Period. My oldest is taking music lessons, Boy Scouts ( with school kids), baseball ( again, with school kids). He does not act like a snob when with these kids, he acts like a kid. In fact I find it the other way around. People shun us because they think we are fundaminalist Christians and they do have the story in their heads we are snobbish so they don't bother talking to us at all. We are labeled "Freaks" right off the bat.

My boys are homeschooled because we already tried public schools, they were miserable and sad all the time. Problems like bed wetting and nail biting, and uncontrolable crying were "normal" during the school year. Now, they wake up happy and ready to learn, go on field trips and play at the park with other kids.

We have freedom now, we go on vacation in Feb. We go on field trips several times a month and learn about something new and interact with different sorts of people. Angry, indifferent, happy, weird, and sometimes just plain nuts, my kids learn to deal with it all, because guess what.....people that were weird in highschool are still weird in their 30's and 40's and so on. They see it and deal with it. Not to mention, FAMILY, tell me what family has a "normal" family. Give me a break, these kids can handle anything after dealing with the public, their extended family, and the flaky Cub Scout Leader!

My kids also know a wealth of information that Kansas schools leave out, as in EVOLUTION. From my view church and state funded schools are not seperate, or they would be learning ALL of science! My oldest knows more history than most adults that did go to public school. He actually had kids ask him what he was talking about when he mentioned Babe Ruth on his baseball team, they did not know who he was!

As homeschoolers we can cover what the child is interested in, not what the state says we "need" to teach and learn at a certain age. We covered the Revolutionary War when my oldest was 6, he still remembers it, so what harm was done? None, he just knew about it at a different time than other kids, same goes with other subjects.

Schools need to change and people need to change their attitude about how schools should be operated. The factory method does not work and needs to be updated, until then I will do it at home!

BTW, we never open the bible, we are not even Christians, that sets us apart from others right off the bat. So don't assume we all sit around reading scripture to our children.

shirinisb 10 years, 7 months ago

I was homeschooled. I still have the same friends I had when I was 12 (14 years ago). I played sports, participated in programs through the Lawrence Arts center and I have no problem socializing.

I don't think homeschool is the problem. I think that parents that use homeschool to isolate their children (i.e. radical christians) are the problem.

The only homeschooled kids I've met (and we seem to all know each other) who had/have serious issues, where children of parents who were fundamentalists.

Ragingbear 10 years, 7 months ago

NAMBLA- The North American Man-Boy Love Association. A group of pedophiles that are working to cause acceptance amongst full grown men and pre-teen boys having sex. They lobby, make pamphlets all sorts of stuff like that.

brass_tacks 10 years, 7 months ago

Instead of wasting hours sitting behind your computers criticizing the public school system and making asinine statements using faulty statistics, maybe some of you could actually try doing something to help fix the problem. You could volunteer as a teacher's aide, volunteer for the after school programs, work part-time as a para (average salary: 9.00/hr), or better yet, get certified to teach. Better yet, Lawrence as a community could try taking a break from constant complaining abut property taxes and actually pony up the cash to make our school system better, like Blue Valley and other "higher quality" systems. Better to just take your kids out of the system than to work to fix the problem, though. Your solution seems to be to spend a few hours a day monitoring responses to your online posts. The day one of you people actually puts your money where your mouth is will be a genuine miracle. Get a life, you dolts.

shirinisb 10 years, 7 months ago

I know what Nambla is, Windlass said "NAMBA" so I was just making sure we were on the same page.

Nambla has nothing to do with home schooling and neither does the ACLU.

Brass_tacks- I bet you got that icky wicky attitude in public school. Tsk tsk.

Ragingbear 10 years, 7 months ago

Actually, the ACLU does have something to do with Home-schooling. It is through their actions that it is even allowed in most places. The argument was that only allowing public schools was a breach of people's constitutional rights to expression.

dlkrm 10 years, 7 months ago

Brass_Tacks: Why would I want to pay higher taxes when we already pay the highest in the state, in an attempt to make the woefully bad schools better? My kids need an education now, not in 20 years when the NEA has lost power and school choice is the way of the world. I'm with Neal Boortz: Sending your kids to public schools is child abuse.

Winona 10 years, 7 months ago

I know there was a comment about not hearing about homeschooling. It is not a recent phenomena. Most of the United States presidents did not go to schools. They were taught at home or had a tutor. Thomas Jefferson actually taught his own grandchildren at home in Monticello. President Lincoln had a total of one year of school in his life. He was taught to read at home and then he was self taught. About socialization, these presidents were not "socialized in school" but they were well adjusted and made great contributions in society. Public schooling is really a recent thing. Most schools that were started were first Christian schools (Yale, Harvard and etc.)

thatgrrl 10 years, 7 months ago

I hate it when people compare life from hundreds of years ago to nowadays. During Thomas Jefferson's time period people still owned slaves and men could legally beat their wives, so why are you going to compare his school system to ours?

VBMoon 10 years, 6 months ago

Ragingbear: "Actually, the ACLU does have something to do with Home-schooling. It is through their actions that it is even allowed in most places."

In homeschooling circles, the ACLU is almost never mentioned -- it's a non-player.


If the ACLU had the courage of their convictions, we homeschoolers might not need to stick together. I've spent years trying to persuade progressive homeschoolers to systematically lobby the ACLU to take on homeschool caseswith no takers. Maybe that's because they know John Holt tried tried to do just that, way back in the 1960swith no results.

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